My boyfriend J and I had a stupid argument.
His fatal mistake was asking how I felt about “stuffing.” He wanted to make an organic, gluten-free stuffing from my favourite sprouted grain bread to serve at the Thanksgiving party he has been carefully planning with my other boyfriend D, his husband.
To say that I dislike stuffing is putting it mildly. I also hate the entire concept of holidays and have not celebrated much of anything in years. Well, I usually briefly observed New Year’s by partying “wildly” on my back porch with a cigar and a jar of alcoholic kombucha for twenty minutes.
So I was, regrettably, not kind about it. I did not thank him for his thoughtfulness in trying to make something I would enjoy for his Thanksgiving celebration. Being thankful, ironically, did not enter my mind during this conversation. I remember feeling irritated at having to think about holidays, and a bit sick to my stomach because the word “stuffing” was said so many times. Having a vivid imagination is a curse/blessing. Certain food items that I consider particularly disgusting nauseate me if I think about them. Once I vomited because I saw a picture of a chicken pot pie and I couldn’t help but imagine how it tasted. It did not taste good.
Anyway. I said how I felt about stuffing was that it made me want to throw up in my mouth. That could have been worded so much more skillfully.
Further, I started ranting about holidays. I explained that I follow the Buddhist notion of every day being special and holidays being superfluous. I tried to explain that I had unhappy memories from my sad childhood. I said I don’t do holidays, and I’m sorry. I said I would help with preparing food if they told me what to do. I said I wanted to see his friends and family that would be there. I felt miserable for not being able to be excited about something he cared about, for raining on his parade, and for not finding a better way to talk about it.
He was upset. He cried. He said I didn’t have to come to the party and he accused me of thinking he’s a stupid hipster for being excited over Thanksgiving. Of course I didn’t think that, but imagining that he thought I was just being an asshole to him set me off. I started yelling and I hate to yell. I was mad that he was crying and making me feel like my feelings weren’t acceptable, and mad that I had made him, a boy I love dearly and want very much to please, cry. Of course my shouting did not stop his tears at all– quite the opposite. That seems distinctly more intuitive in retrospect.
Somewhere in the middle of yelling I realized maybe I don’t celebrate holidays anymore not because I have Buddhist leanings or because I have unpleasant memories associated with holidays, but because I don’t want to feel certain things. Sadness. More so, regret. I realized that not celebrating holidays won’t keep me safe from uncomfortable feelings. I tried to unpack this emotional crap I didn’t want to deal with, while stuck in a car full of pregnant silences, staring up at the stars.
The food (using the term loosely) known as “stuffing” reminds me of my beloved Aunt J. She is one of the kindest people I know and also one of the worst cooks. While it’s true I have never enjoyed that incomprehensible use for bread, Aunt J’s squishy substance loaded with chunks of pepperoni and unplaceable herbs was deeply unsettling to me. Further, I always choked it down to be polite because I love my aunt. Which leads us to another aspect of this issue– I feel it is very rude to refuse food, I hate to be rude, and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. In recent years I have sometimes reacted to food offerings (or even hypothetical food offerings) with anger, which is surely the quickest way to hurt someone’s feelings– the exact thing I am upset at the prospect of doing. And sometimes I still eat things that I don’t want to if I think someone’s feelings will be hurt, even if I know it will make me sick. This is ludicrous and I’m working on it.
Anyway. I always thought Aunt J was Italian, being dark haired and married to my uncle, but when I was doing genealogy research, I found that her maiden name is distinctly non-Italian. How sad is it that I have never asked her about her family or heritage? I could have at least asked her where her very creative stuffing recipe came from. But it’s not even really about stuffing. Who cares about that?
I miss my Aunt J very much and need to go back to the place where I grew up to visit her. She and my Uncle J were so kind to me in my largely unhappy youth. I will never forget that when I was in high school they told me I could come over to their house any time. They said this pointedly, with the unspoken bit being that I could come there to escape because they knew I was having trouble getting along with my parents and siblings. And by that I mean they treated me like shit, though back then I did not tell my aunt & uncle (or anyone) what they put me through. When I started testosterone to affirm my gender in my early twenties, my aunt & uncle said my new name as if it had always been mine, while my parents and siblings did what they could to make sure I understood how disagreeable me being comfortable in my own skin was to them.
My Uncle J passed last year. There is a pain in my heart when I think about him, mostly because I did not go back to visit and I barely kept in touch. A couple years ago I wrote to my aunt & uncle to tell them how much it meant to me how good they were to me in the darkest times in my life and that I would never forget it. I stated that again in a letter when I found out that Uncle J was given only a short time to live. My horrible mother could not resist the urge to email me to tell me that Aunt J had let her read the letters. I knew that my mother hoped that I would be upset with Aunt J for letting her read them. But unlike my mother, my aunt would never purposefully violate my trust. Unlike my mother, my aunt is a sweet person without any deception in her heart.
Part of the reason that I did not go back to visit before was money being tight, and not having a car. But I really have no excuse for not writing very often, and never calling. Being an introvert is not a good enough excuse. Not wanting to visit the town where I grew up and where my parents still live (I think) is not a good enough excuse. Nothing is. And life is short. I need to visit Aunt J.
Regret is the real stuffing.
It was after my beloved Italian grandfather passed in 2003 that I stopped celebrating holidays. I deeply regret not spending more time with him in his last few years on Earth. There are so many things I wish I could ask him that never occurred to me to ask him when I was a dumb kid. He was such an important person to me that I feel like a part of me died with him. I’m not sure what it says that I don’t even enjoy celebrating my own birth anymore. Though I’ve never been a person who does things much like other people do, I was excited about holidays and my birthday when I was a little kid. Maybe someday I will be again.
My boyfriend J was only trying to make me feel like part of the family. The last thing he wanted was to upset me and I certainly did not want to upset him. Even if we never see eye to eye on holidays, much less stuffing, I hope we are always family.